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New Post Office performs poorly, as predicted

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A disgruntled queue: In the Post Office in Aberystwyth’s WHSmith (Pic. Nicki Wilkins)

A disgruntled queue: In the Post Office in Aberystwyth’s WHSmith (Pic. Nicki Wilkins)

ON MONDAY (Dec 12), The Herald began receiving reports of pandemonium in the newly opened Post Office in WHSmith on Terrace Road in Aberystwyth.

Texts, tweets and Facebook posts reported ‘angry people’, ‘not pleasant’, and ‘epic fail Post Office!’ One eye-witness, Nicki Wilkins, told The Herald that she waited more than 20 minutes in a queue of at least 18 people: “One elderly lady was not happy at having to stand so long to get her pension. A member of the public helpfully fetched her a chair. In the queue, there was lots of complaining, tutting and raised eyebrows. Some people walked in then straight back out again after seeing the queue. I overheard someone say: ‘How is this an improvement? The other one was spacious; this is cramped’.”

Refusing to blame the queue and delays on a Christmas rush, Post Office counter staff agreed that it was ‘always like this in here’. They told customers that they simply do not have enough counters to serve from. Helpful as they are, the counter staff inevitably bear the brunt of people’s anger when they are forced to wait for so long.

Counter staff told customers that the Post Office at WHSmith were considering installing a self-service counter for buying stamps and posting parcels. One Save Aberystwyth Post Office campaigner said: “We, the citizens, worked bloody hard to get Smiths to listen to us and we predicted that it would be awful.”

As campaigners to keep the Crown Post Office on Great Darkgate Street open forecasted, The Herald understands that the UKVI Biometric Enrolment Service is not currently available at the Post Office in WHSmith on Terrace Road. The service is essential in a town with vital international connections, not least Aberystwyth University. Foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area often need to apply for a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). A BRP proves the holder’s right to stay, work or study in the United Kingdom. Contrary to the reports that we have received, however, the Post Office website claims the BRP service is available in the Post Office in WHSmith on Terrace Road. As The Herald goes to press, we have not managed to get an answer from the Post Office in WHSmith about the availability of the BRP service. Herald readers, please do write in and let us know about your experiences with the BRP and other Post Office services in WHSmith.

UK-WIDE INDUSTRIAL ACTION

The pandemonium in Aberystwyth will be matched in Post Offices across the UK next week when workers take industrial action. Post Office Ltd state that they expect industrial action to affect ‘a small number of our branches’ on Monday (Dec 19) and Tuesday (Dec 20). They expect that ‘strike action will affect less than three hundred of our branches, and 97% of our 11,600 branches will be operating as normal. Royal Mail also expects its services to ‘be operating as normal’.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) plan to stage five days of strikes in the run-up to Christmas. A long-running dispute over jobs, pensions and branch closures lies behind the walkout, which is expected to include Christmas Eve. CWU previously took industrial action in September this year and again in October. Staff and management are in dispute over the closure of a final salary pension scheme, job losses and the franchising of Crown Post Offices, mostly to WHSmith. Crown Post Offices are larger branches, such as the former Great Darkgate Street branch, which offer a full range of services. Traditionally, Crown Post Offices are sited on high streets in the heart of the town and community.

Dave Ward, CWU’s General Secretary, said his members were being ‘forced into fighting to save their jobs and this great institution from terminal decline’: “We didn’t want to be in this position but, unless we stand up now, the Post Office as we know it will cease to exist. We are defending the very future of the Post Office in this country.

“We want a Post Office that works for everyone; for communities, for small and medium-sized businesses, and for the people who serve them – our hard working members – but the people running the Post Office have no serious plan other than further closures and managed decline, and we won’t accept that.”

The CWU accuses Post Office Ltd of launching ‘an unprecedented attack on the jobs, job security and pensions of thousands of hard-working and loyal Post Office workers’. The union claims it is Post Office Ltd which is dictating a ‘path of conflict and industrial disputes’.

It is not known whether the Post Office in WHSmith will be affected by any of the days of industrial action. To be on the safe side and to avoid the delays that are already causing pandemonium in WHSmith, Herald readers are advised to access Post Office services in Penparcau, Waunfawr or villages that have been fortunate enough to retain sub Post Offices. So, post early for Christmas – or maybe send an email and use a parcel courier!

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Mark Drakeford named next First Minister

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THE NEXT First Minister of Wales will be Mark Drakeford, it has been announced this afternoon (Dec 6).

Mr Drakeford, a Cardiff West AM, was named as the winner of the Welsh Labour leadership contest at the Principality Stadium.

The contest was triggered when Carwyn Jones, the current First Minister, announced he was stepping down.

Mr Jones will officially step down on Tuesday (Dec 10).

Mr Drakeford will then be officially confirmed as the new First Minister of Wales by the National Assembly next week.

In the first round of voting, the results were:

Mark Drakeford – 46.9%
Vaughan Gething – 30.8%
Eluned Morgan – 22.3%

Eluned Morgan’s votes were then redistributed on voters’ second preferences, with the following results:

Mark Drakeford – 53.9%
Vaughan Gethin – 46.1%

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Met Office issue yellow weather warning for Friday morning

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THE MET OFFICE has warned of strong winds and heavy rain across South and West Wales as they have issued a yellow weather warning for rain on Friday (Dec 7).

Between 1am and 9am, spells of rain, heavy at times and accompanied by windy weather, are likely to produce 20-40mm of rain.

Coming after some recent wet weather, this rain is likely to lead to some temporary flooding impacts before the rain clears early Friday morning.

The Met Office are warning people that flooding of a few homes and business is likely, bus and train services, as well as roads, will probably be affected, with journey times taking longer.

Natural Resources Wales also has a flood alert in place in Pembrokeshire. Due to restrictions at the tidal outfall, river levels in the River Ritec in the Salterns area of Tenby are likely to remain high for a number of days.

River levels are rising slightly as each high tide arrives. The combination of ground conditions, existing river levels and forecast rainfall quantities gives a high risk of flooding of low-lying land during the next couple of days.

This comes a week after Yellow Weather Warnings were issued across Wales as Storm Diana brought extreme winds and heavy rain to the country.

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PCSOs celebrated in police campaign

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PCSO Iona Jones-Kenny

A campaign recognising Police Community Support Officers and the value they add to policing in Wales is being celebrated for its second year next week (Dec 10-14).

Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) work on the front line providing a visible and reassuring presence on streets throughout the country.

The campaign, called #ThoseInBlue, is being supported by Dyfed-Powys Police, South Wales Police, Gwent Police, North Wales Police and British Transport Police. All week they will be showcasing the work of their PCSOs and recognising the vital role they play.

PCSOs are the eyes and ears of police in communities – building trust and gathering information that is crucial to tackling crime and antisocial behaviour.

Dyfed-Powys Police’s Temporary Deputy Chief Constable, Richard Lewis, leads the portfolio for PCSOs in Wales.  He said: “PCSOs are an integral part of the police family. It is different to being a warranted Police Officer, and is a job in its own right.

“PCSOs are not only the eyes and ears in our communities, but also help tackle problems which cause the most concern for people living in Wales.

“PCSOs bring a wide range of skills and experience to the role and in the Dyfed-Powys area we have specialist PCSOs tackling rural crime, cyber crime and antisocial behaviour, and crime reduction experts.

“This Christmas, PCSOs will be a reassuring presence for some of the most vulnerable people living in towns, cities and villages across Wales.”

As part of the campaign, Dyfed-Powys Police Chief Officers will be heading ‘back to the floor’ – going on patrol with PCSOs working across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys.

All week PCSOs across Wales will be using #TweetMyWeek on Twitter to showcase the work they do every day that helps keep people safe. Follow the hashtag or keep up with the campaign on Dyfed-Powys Police’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

If you have concerns about crime or antisocial behaviour in your community speak to a PCSO or call 101.

MEET CEREDIGION’S PCSO

Name: PCSO Iona Jones-Kenny

Where you’re stationed: Lampeter

Length of service: Five months

Why did you join: I wanted a new challenge and feel I have a lot of previous experience to bring into the new role.

Best moments: No two days are the same and each day brings up a new challenge.

Interests outside of work: Spending time with the family, walking the dogs, and pool and sea swimming.

Aspirations: To build good links within the community and continue helping people.

Speciality: Working in schools and young people.

Previous experience: Working with children and young people and children in school.

PCSO Matthew Kieboom

Name: PCSO Matthew Kieboom

Where you’re stationed: Out of Cardigan Police Station, covering the rural villages and along the coast – probably one of the most beautiful parts of Cymru.

Length of service: 5 years, six months.

Why did you join: Several reasons:  I live in the middle of the community that I support. When I first moved here it became very obvious that there were strong communities and my wife Debbie and I were quickly welcomed. I wanted to help support and improve/protect those communities. With a uniformed background, when I saw the job advertised, it just called out to me.

Best moment: Hearing the stories from members of my communities who had nominated me for the #WeCare awards – that was very emotional. We go out and do the best we can to support and protect people and often we don’t really know if we are getting it right.

Interests outside of work: Very limited due to having a smallholding! My dogs mean the world to me. I also love kayaking out at sea, swimming and hiking and generally being outdoors enjoying the beautiful area we live in. There is something very mindful about being outside in west Wales, no matter what the weather.

Aspirations: The work a PC does is immense and their opportunities to specialise in different roles and go up the ranks of promotion does appeal, but I have had a successful career in the British Army already and am getting a bit long in the tooth to be competing directly against people half my age or less! I am really content with the difference I am currently making as a PCSO and the support in my role that the communities give me.

Speciality: First Aid instructor with experience of dealing with trauma – there’s nothing I can’t do with a spoon! I’m a Blue Light Mind Champion, LGBT Liaison Officer and Major Incident trained, specialising in Major Medical Incidents.

Previous experience:  Management Degree at Lancaster University followed by British Army Officer for 12 years. I’ve been on numerous Operational Tours specialising in major medical incidents, helped build refugee camps and provided Military Aid to a Civil Authority in York Floods in 2000 and Foot and Mouth Crisis in 2001. Many of the incidents I commanded at either both Bronze or Silver level, providing advice and planning to Gold where appropriate.  Following medical discharge from the Army I had the pleasure of working at Help for Heroes as they first formed as volunteers and were a large part of my recovery process. It took me some 5 years before I was ready for full time employment.

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